Archive for 'environment'

India: How to Keep the Water Flowing

Posted on May 16, 2011, by Hanna Ingber, under India, International, environment.

MUMBAI, India — No large city in India offers all its residents a constant supply of water, and most provide water at unreliable times.

The wealthy manage this by paying for tanks, pumping systems and filters, as this chart by Professor Srinivas Chary, the director of urban government at the Administrative Staff College of India, shows. The poor must spend their own precious resource: time.

Among families across India and much of South Asia who receive piped water, the women spend a significant chunk of their days waiting — and waiting — for the water to arrive. They often have to delay or miss going to work or the market or performing other obligations while they wait. Once the water comes, they rush to fill every bucket and container they have.

If the women choose to leave and the water comes during their absence, they may have to wait another five or six days until they get another chance.

A group of graduate students from the University of California, Berkeley, decided to tackle this problem of unreliable water supply by creating a system that harnesses the ubiquity of mobile phones in India and dependability of crowd-sourcing to provide accurate information on water availability.

Continue reading at GlobalPost.

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India Opens Restaurant for Vultures

Posted on January 3, 2011, by Hanna Ingber, under India, International, environment.

PHANSAD WILDLIFE SANCTUARY, India — Deep in the wildlife sanctuary, a swath of grasslands opens onto a clearing so dry the ground looks covered in yellow hay. In the middle of the clearing, leftover cow teeth, hooves and bones are strewn about. We have arrived, the forest officials say, at India’s vulture restaurant.

Vultures in India, Pakistan and Nepal began dying off two decades ago after a painkiller used to treat sick farm animals became popular in the region, according to environmentalists. Feasting on heavily medicated pack animals, the vultures were unknowingly bringing about their own demise.

In an effort to save the scavengers from extinction, the state of Maharashtra has embarked on a project to create a safe space where the birds can eat, mingle and table hop without accidentally being poisoned to death.

The so-called restaurant, which will have its grand opening this month, will serve vulture delicacies: cow, water buffalo and bullock carcasses. Forest officials will secure the carcasses from nearby villages, ensure the animals had not been treated with the poisonous chemical called diclofenac before they died and then bring them to this clearing in Phansad Wildlife Sanctuary in Raigad district, about 150 kilometers south of Mumbai.

Continue reading at GlobalPost.

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How Assam’s Tea Is Beginning to Feel the Strain of Global Warming

Posted on January 2, 2011, by Hanna Ingber, under India, International, environment.

Lush green tea plantations, so bright they often look fluorescent, blanket the hills of Assam in northeastern India. Women plucking the leaves in black aprons with large baskets on their backs dot the gardens that contribute to India’s production of nearly a third of the world’s tea. But this picturesque industry that the British began in the early 19th-century faces a very modern problem: climate change.

Researchers and planters worry that a rise in temperatures and change in rainfall patterns are threatening the production and quality of Assam’s famous tea.

About 850 tea gardens in Assam produce 55 percent of India’s tea, but crop yields are decreasing and amid fears of a correlation with environmental change. Production in the state fell from 564,000 tons in 2007 to 487,000 tons in 2009, and the crop was estimated to have fallen to 460,000 tons in 2010, according to the Assam Branch Indian Tea Association. “Climate changing is definitely happening,” said Mridul Hazarika, the director of the Tea Research Association, which is conducting studies on how the changes are hitting tea production. “It is affecting the tea gardens in a number of ways.”

Continue reading at The Independent.

Follow Hanna on Twitter: @Hanna_India.

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Mumbai Zoo Vs. Botanical Gardens

Posted on October 19, 2010, by Hanna Ingber, under India, International, environment.

MUMBAI, India — An elaborate city plan to revamp Mumbai’s zoo into a world-class animal park has angered environmentalists who argue the project will damage the city’s 149-year-old botanical garden, in which the zoo resides.

Concerns over the fate of the garden’s trees have prevented the $105-million project from moving forward.

“The whole face of the garden will be changed,” said MR Almeida, a plant taxonomist and former vice president of the Bombay Natural History Society. “It will never be the botanical garden anymore.”

In the middle of an otherwise congested and polluted city, the Veermata Jijabai Bhosale Udyan-Zoo feels like a lovely, green oasis. Towering trees — some 300 to 400 years old — form canopies under which visitors stroll through the grounds. Lovers gather on the well-manicured lawns. Birds fly overhead, their chirping a welcome change from Mumbai’s incessant honking.

Enclosures, most small and barren, dispersed throughout the park hold a lone hyena or a couple hippopotamuses. On a recent afternoon, two thin elephants stood behind a moat — chained to the ground — swaying back and forth. Until the zoo is upgraded, it cannot bring in more animals. The ones that remain tend to be old and are dying off.

Continue reading at GlobalPost.

Follow Hanna on Twitter: @Hanna_India

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For a Thirsty India, Rains a Mixed Blessing

Posted on June 23, 2010, by Hanna Ingber, under India, International, environment.

MUMBAI, India — Just a month back Mumbai had such a bad water shortage that some families went four or five days without a drop in their faucet. People broke open pipes to steal water. The local press covered fights between neighbors over access to a tap and water-related stress sending more people to psychologists’ offices.

The city was on edge, blistering hot and waiting for the skies to open. Finally, like it does every year, the monsoon arrived. Mumbaikars rejoiced in the streets last week as the city welcomed the First Rains, referred to in India like a proper noun.

But the monsoon is not all hot chai and onion bhajias. It also wreaks havoc, bringing with it the potential for floods, train disruptions, endless traffic, damaged buildings and an increase in diseases like malaria and dengue.

“I don’t know if I should be happy or sad when the monsoon comes,” said Nidhi Jamwal, a senior correspondent with “Down To Earth,” a magazine published by the New Delhi-based Center for Science and Environment. “It’s something like a paradox for all Mumbaikars.”

Continue reading at GlobalPost.

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